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NC man accused of rolling back car odometers, selling the cars

Flavio Oliveira, 39, of Raleigh

Flavio Oliveira, 39, of Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man is accused of rolling back odometers on 20 cars and selling 15 of them.

WTVD-TV reported that Flavio Oliveira, 39, of Raleigh, faced a judge for the first time Wednesday afternoon on those charges and one more – not having a car dealer’s license.

Neighbors of the address listed for Oliveira say he and his family moved out recently, but when they lived there cars were often lined up on the street.

State Department of Motor Vehicles investigators lodged the charges against the Brazilian man who is now under an immigration detainer.

It appears most of the cars were sold to individuals, but at least one ended up in an auction according to Gary Essick, who is a used Honda dealer in Thomasville, North Carolina.

Essick said he bought the car at auction from a well-respected new car dealer. He sold the car and was shocked when DMV investigators showed up on his doorstep weeks later asking about it.

“It is a big mess because we, you know, after we sold the car you’ve got to think back if you were, if you were sold a car and four to six months down the road you were told that you had to return it immediately for a possible fraudulent odometer statement, you know, it’s going to upset the customer,” said Essick.

Read full story: WTVD-TV

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Driverless Cars Are Only as Intelligent as Their Driver

driverless carsDriverless cars have taken center stage as the newest innovations that are about to cross the boundary between science fiction and technological reality. However, top engineers from the automotive industry admit that how intelligent the so-called driverless vehicles, now in prototype are, depend largely on the wits of their driver.

Despite claims by Google that their driverless car can drive anywhere on its own, the truth of the matter is that it can only drive and thereby has only been tested, for the past over one hundred thousand miles, in a very limited subset of traffic conditions. Most of these traffic conditions were in very good weather, only driven twenty-five miles an hour or slower and never in parking garages.

Efforts are also being made by automakers to dispel various myths about driverless cars that have arisen from the widespread hype of the Google car. Unfortunately, this publicity by Google has skewed the judgment of the mainstream public regarding these vehicles, especially that of the disabled sect of society. These misconceptions have given rise to many safety and regulatory issues that auto manufacturers and governmental agencies have just begun to address.

The idea of driverless cars was first conceived as a way to address the growing number of injuries and fatalities that occur each year on the roads and highways of the world’s developed countries. As test after test has revealed, humans are still the most intelligent beings on earth. Automakers are finding the high level of reasoning and critical thinking it takes to drive defensively is hard, even impossible, to replicate even in the branch of science known as artificial intelligence, a field that is still in its infancy. Automakers admit that, though a three hundred and sixty degree scan is executed more efficiently by the algorithms of a computer, the depth to which human beings take in and interpret their environment is unparalleled.

Distinctions have also been drawn in terminology, driverless cars versus automated cars. There are cars on the road today such as the Toyota Prius and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that have automated driving systems that can detect potential road hazards and stop the car when obstacles are present. These automobiles, while intelligent for their time, still require a partnership between the vehicle and the driver. Even the cars that are reported to be driverless still require the intervention of the driver in certain situations, including its own ability to perceive situations as the owner of said driverless automobiles currently need to envision traffic scenarios and program them into the car’s computer system in order for the vehicle to be able to perceive such conditions on the open road. Truly, tests have shown that these driverless cars are indeed only as intelligent as their driver.

This raises some serious questions of safety when considering these vehicles for use by certain subsects of the public, particularly people who are blind. Reporters have ridden with automotive engineers from General Motors and Toyota on test runs where the engineers are so nervous that their hands are never more than inches from the steering wheel so they can take over if something should go wrong.

Despite the hype by Google that driverless cars will happen sooner rather than later, warnings are being issued by automakers that driverless cars, currently in prototype, still require a partnership between itself and the human driver. Though it is the ultimate trajectory of the technological world to remove human effort from the equation of living, driving a car is one of those skills performed by billions of people everyday that is proving to be an area where human intelligence and vision cannot be erased. This brings into serious doubt the feasibility of the driverless, or more aptly called given today’s technology automated, cars for use by blind individuals and even individuals with limited mobility in their hands and feet.

Debates continue over what regulatory agency or legislative bodies, or both, will hold governance over the driverless car. Automakers aim high to make their vehicles autonomous in most traffic situations though none of their efforts have completely erased the need for the intelligent human driver. People with disabilities particularly the blind community, though excited about the prospect of widening independence that would be brought about by the driverless car, should also take into account that these cars, hailed to be driverless, are not truly autonomous of driver intervention despite the propaganda that leaves the public with the impression that a driver can take a nap when in a driverless vehicle. These cars are machines that will fail; and, currently they will even alert the driver to take over manually in certain situations which could present life-threatening conditions for drivers with visual disabilities. For those old enough to remember the popular show of the early to mid 1980’s Knight Rider, KITT is still science fiction; and, the intelligence of driverless cars is stilled wrapped up in the knowledge and experience of its driver.

by Tiffany Cook










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Falling used-car prices roil the auto market

Used-car prices are sliding, a boon to penny-pinchers, but troubling for new-car sales.

The auto industry sales recovery in recent years means millions of used cars, many coming off lease, are starting to flood the market. The result is a decline in used-car prices that zoomed sky-high after the recession. And the decline is leading to talk that new-car auto sales growth may be peaking.

“We’re going to see a tremendous increase in used-car supply over the next couple of years,” says Larry Dominique, an executive vice president of auto-pricing site TrueCar.

That used-car cascade could dampen new-car sales in three ways:

Less valuable trade-ins. Car shoppers may find their trade-ins are worth less than they expected when they go to buy new vehicles. That means they’ll have to shoulder larger new-car loans or forgo the purchases.

More expensive leases. Lease rates for new vehicles are based on predicted resale value. As resale prices fall, automakers adjust predicted depreciation schedules and have to raise lease prices.

More attractive used cars. In recent years, used-car prices were so high that car shoppers found they could buy a new one for not much more. Now the pendulum is swinging back, says Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Wholesale prices were down 0.4% in August vs. a year ago, down 1.6% from July and “prices should continue to trend down as supply outpaces demand,” writes Tom Kontos of Adesa Analytical Services, which tracks wholesale prices for used cars, in a note to the industry.

At retail, the average used car sold at a franchised auto dealership went for $10,883 last month, down 1.6% from a year ago and 2.4% from July, says CNW Research.

Lower used-car prices are a delayed response to the new-car market’s revival from the recession: From a bottom at 10.4 million in 2009, new-car auto sales are on track to break 16 million this year.

Fewer trade-ins in the recession caused wholesale used-car prices to soar more than 25% to a peak in May, 2011, before leveling off, according to Tom Webb, chief economist at Manheim Consulting. August was the fourth straight month of declining wholesale prices, but he says talk of pricing free-fall is “premature.”

“We’re definitely seeing prices fall,” says Duane Paddock of Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, N.Y. The decline is real, he says, but it’s “not like Niagara Falls. We’ve seen a gradual drop.”

Not every region has seen falling prices yet. Pete Greiner of Greiner Ford and Lincoln in Casper, Wyo., says prices remain stubbornly high for the used vehicles most in demand in his energy-rich area: pickup trucks. Prices are “high, high, high” at the auction where he buys his inventory, he says.

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GM recalls 221000 cars for braking problem

Washington — General Motors Co. is recalling 221,000 new Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala cars worldwide, because of improper braking that could cause excessive heat and poor performance.

The recall covers 2013 -2015 XTS cars and 2014-2015 Impalas and was prompted by an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened in April. The recall includes 205,000 cars in the United States.

GM said the electronic parking brake’s piston actuation arm may not fully retract, which may cause the brake pads to stay partially engaged with the rotor. The light may not be on even though the parking brake is engaged, which means the vehicle doesn’t comply with federal safety requirements.

The Detroit automaker recalled cars “may experience poor vehicle acceleration, undesired deceleration, excessive brake heat, and premature wear to some brake components. If the brake drag is significant or if the vehicle is operated for an extended period of time in this condition, there is a potential for the rear brakes to generate significant heat, smoke, and sparks.”

Dealers will update the logic in the electronic parking brake software. Dealers were notified Sept. 4 and GM decided to recall the vehicles on Aug. 27, but the recall was only posted on NHTSA’s website Saturday.

GM is not aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities as a result of this condition.

NHTSA’s investigation opened in April was to “investigate allegations of inappropriate autonomous braking while driving” in 2014 Impala cars.

“In response, GM reviewed its warranty records for cases of autonomous braking. This review revealed a potential condition relating to parking brake drag,” GM said.

GM asked its dealers for information on the issue in May and GM bought a defective car from one of its dealers. “After analyzing the vehicle, GM determined that the parking brake software was defective. GM continued to investigate the potential safety and compliance implications of the software defect.”

This is at least GM’s 67th record setting recall of 2014. The automaker has called back 26 million vehicles in the United States and 29.3 million worldwide.

The Justice Department is investigating GM’s handling of a delayed recall of 2.6 million vehicle older Cobalt, Ion and other cars linked to 19 deaths and 54 crashes. The Securities and Exchange Commission, 45 state attorneys general and Canadian officials are also investigating. GM paid a record setting $35 million fine to NHTSA in May.

GM initially told NHTSA the recall covered 132,000 U.S vehicles on Sept. 4 but expanded the population to 205,000 in the U.S. on Sept. 12, GM spokesman Alan Adler said.

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Red Bull Global Rallycross a showcase for compact cars

If anything is going to capture the fleeting attention of millennials, it might look like the spectacle at the Port of Los Angeles this weekend: 600-horsepower hatchbacks racing on a half-paved, half-dirt track, flying over a 70-foot jump, and knocking one another sideways with bumper-car glee.

That’s the gist of the Red Bull Global Rallycross, a race series that has grown from a sideshow event in 2010 to television’s second-most popular motor sport today, behind only NASCAR.

The rallycross is high-thrills racing condensed into bite-size morsels that travel easily on social media. It’s aimed at the hard-to-please generation of potential car buyers 18 to 40 years old.

“If Global Rallycross didn’t exist, you would invent it,” said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing at Hyundai.

Calling it the modern equivalent of the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” adage, Hyundai and brands including Ford, Volkswagen, Chevrolet and Subaru relish the chance to expose compact cars directly to their target audience.

The cars that roar around the track in the main Supercar event are all modified with advanced roll cages, turbocharged engines and all-wheel-drive systems that can propel the car from zero to 60 mph in a neck-snapping 1.9 seconds.

But the cars are all based on affordable production models sitting in dealerships today. These include Volkswagen’s Beetle, Ford’s Fiesta ST, Chevy’s Sonic and Subaru’s WRX STI.

Hyundai entered the series in 2012 as it was looking to drum up interest in its Veloster Turbo, a compact, three-door hatchback. Rallycross gave the automaker a chance to burnish the car’s street cred.

“We wanted to put an exclamation point on that car,” Shannon said. “From a manufacturer’s standpoint, GRC was perfect. It just adds to the millennial vibe.”

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Shannon wouldn’t say how much money Hyundai had invested in the race series, saying only that it was millions, but not tens of millions, of dollars.

Hyundai has paired up with famed drifting racer, stunt driver and hill-climb champion Rhys Millen to compete in the rally series. The Huntington Beach-based gearhead also owns his own race team.

“It’s one of the most exciting laps you can ever have behind the wheel of a race car,” said Millen, as he headed into the L.A. weekend hoping for a repeat of a recent rallycross race, held in Daytona, Fla., which he won.

Standing in his way will be Tanner Foust and the VW team, which has invested a similar amount of money as Hyundai in the race series, according to Jost Capito, head of Volkswagen Motorsports.

Since entering the GRC series for the first time this season, VW has been running a race-prepped version of a Polo — a hatchback smaller than the Golf that is unavailable in the U.S.

Tesla software update zaps new features into cars

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I Drove Toyota’s Car Of The Future And It Was Boring

Toyota Fuel Cell cars

While Tesla is getting everyone excited about the idea of sexy electric cars in every driveway, Toyota has been working on a different technological roadmap: The carmaker that made the hybrid category with the Prius thinks that the next generation of cars will be fueled by hydrogen, and it’s going to beat everyone to market with a model coming next year.

Earlier this week I got a chance to drive a couple of Toyota’s test models. One was an older Highlander, a small “SUV” that was based on the Camry platform. It was running on Toyota’s older hydrogen tech, but looked and felt like a real car — the interior was set up like a car you could have found on a lot five years ago.

The other model was a “mule,” built to test the latest hardware without giving away what the production model looks like, inside or out. This car was much lighter than the fuel-cell-powered Highlander, resulting in better performance than the Highlander-based model. Of course, it was also wrapped in a swirl-patterned skin that drew some odd gazes, and the interior was basically a duct-taped mess.

Testing oddities aside, my drives in Toyota’s fuel-cell cars were uneventful. Starting in the parking lots behind ATT Park in San Francisco, I drove both cars down the Embarcadero and then through SOMA. Despite the cramped awfulness of dealing with San Francisco’s streets and drivers, I didn’t have any issues. Both cars were totally capable of picking up speed to make it through short lights and of stopping immediately when drivers in front of me spaced out entirely.

While the Highlander’s infotainment screen had a mode that showed where power was coming from (the car has a fuel cell and a Prius-sized battery), for the most part it just felt like driving a car that runs on gasoline or diesel.

That seems to be what Toyota is going for with its hydrogen-powered cars. In addition to announcing that it would have a fuel cell car for sale in the United States next year, the company has also been investing in the rollout of a hydrogen-fuel infrastructure in California that should be ready in time for the vehicle’s 2015 launch.

That means that if you live in Southern California or the Bay Area, you could buy a hydrogen-powered car next year and have an experience that isn’t too far from what you’d get with a gas guzzler: You’d still have about 300 miles of driving per tank, and you’d still have to go to a filling station when that tank runs out. The only differences would be that you’ll be driving a car with no engine sounds or harmful emissions (fuel cells simply create water as exhaust).

While I didn’t get to drive the actual car Toyota plans to release next year (expect them to release details, including what the interior looks like and the power train’s specs over the coming months so that this thing stays in the news — I did get to see what the final car will look like. Surprisingly, the car, which Toyota tells me will cost “more than a Prius but less than a Tesla,” still looks a lot like the concept vehicle Toyota first showed off early this year.

  1. Toyota fuel cell car

  2. Toyota fuel cell car

  3. Toyota fuel cell car

IMAGE BY Kyle Russell

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Elon Musk says self-driving car technology still has another 5 to 6 years to go

About a year ago, Tesla announced its plans to develop self-driving car technologies, and now founder and CEO Elon Musk says there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before that’s a reality. Another 5 to 6 years, to be precise. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Musk says that the various technologies needed to make that happen still needs years of work to perfect, and that it could take a few more after that for laws and regulations to catch up.

The reason, Musk told The Journal, is that Tesla — and others — are still trying to crack the code of helping computers recognize objects. Current systems rely on radar, cameras, and other sensors to see what’s around them and make decisions. Some of those systems have gotten smaller, better, and less expensive, though they still require software that can identify objects and make the right decisions.

Cars are still learning how to recognize things

Many other companies are currently trying to perfect just that process, including Google which is running virtual simulations of California roads to train the cars used in its self-driving car project. For its part, California this week issued the first group of permits to let Google, Mercedes, and Audi legally begin testing self-driving cars on roadways, with other companies expected to follow.

The two major promises of self-driving cars are safety and convenience. Computer-controlled cars promise to react to things faster, and could open up certain sections of roadways to higher speeds given the extra reaction time — speeding up long distance car travel. “They will be a factor of 10 safer than a person [at the wheel] in a six-year time frame,” Musk says. For convenience, a car that drives itself would allow passengers to focus on other things besides maneuvering around roadways and other drivers.

Musk’s estimates for Tesla are not that far off from other automakers, which hope to have fully-autonomous cars on the road by 2020. Last August, Nissan said it planned to have multiple models available by then, with an estimated price increase only of $1,000 per car. Others, like GM and startup Cruise are aiming to deliver souped up versions of cruise control that will let the car drive itself on highways, just with a human still behind the wheel.

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5-vehicle crash sends cars into water in George Bush Park

KHOU 11′s Jacqueline Crea reports

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The 10 sexiest exhaust pipes on new cars today

Aesthetically, there is a lot to consider when analyzing a car’s design. Most people probably focus on a car’s grill or the profile or sculpting.

But for a lot of folks, the tailpipes have an allure all their own.

Here are what editors consider the 10 best examples of exquisite exhausts on the market today.

1. 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder

The “top pipes” of the new 918 Porsche Spyder aren’t what sparked us to create this list, but they certainly earn the top spot without much debate. Unlike most tailpipes, these are mounted directly above the supercar’s engine (and behind your ears). Porsche says the design keeps hot gasses away from the engine by using the shortest possible route. That may be true, but the wow factor is off the charts, too.

2. 2015 Dodge Viper

In the lexicon of exhaust pipes there are probably none more unusual than those that pipe out hot emissions to the side of the car. The redesigned Dodge Viper has ‘em, though, and it is the subtlety of these side pipes on such an otherwise audacious sports car — no matter what color — that really stirs our hearts.

3. 2015 Lexus RC F

There are a few cars on this list with quad pipes, but Lexus gets a few extra nods because of the offset layout of the four on the all-new RC F coupe. They’re not as exotic as the center-mounted tri-pipes of the LFA supercar from the Japanese luxury automaker, but for a somewhat attainable sports coupe, they’re pretty spectacular.

4. 2015 Nissan Nismo GT-R

The shiny quad pipes on the perfectly dangerous-looking GT-R are worthy of this list on their own, but when Nissan gives the Nismo treatment to a car, it’s usually something unique. Instead of four separate circles, the duo on each side is contained in single, split oval. This exudes more of a “race car” look to the Nismo versus a street-car look to the GT-R. If you’re getting a GT-R, though, you really can’t go wrong.

5. 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

The first Alfa Romeo to be sold in the U.S. in decades is an elegant sports coupe that exudes European flair. The same can be said for the dual tailpipes on either side of its slickly styled rear lower bumper. The pipes have two concentric circles, a look common in automotive fashion years ago but one that you rarely see today.

6. 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

There are quad pipes and there are center-mounted pipes, but the redesigned Corvette Stingray has the best of both worlds: center-mounted quad pipes. Whether you get the basic Corvette or the new Z06 version with its extra oomph, you still get these four pipes all lined up in a row right below those two famous flags.

7. 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

This list focuses on how tailpipes look, and to tell you the truth, the pair on the ridiculously powerful Challenger Hellcat don’t really scream 707 horsepower. That is, until you rev the engine. Perhaps they speak to the potential for this to be a sleeper. Dressed in gray or black paint, no one will know what is hiding under the hood. And no one will be able to tell when sitting behind you at a stoplight either. Until the light turns green.

8. 2014 Jaguar F-Type R V-8

When Jaguar decided to evoke the past for its new F-Type coupe and convertible, it did a masterful job of incorporating modern styling into an iconic look. Its exhaust is no exception, especially on the V-8-powered models, which focus two straight pipes on either side of the rear of the car. It’s another vintage touch that offsets the rather futuristic design.

9. 2015 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Who fails to love a center-mounted exhaust pipe? The editors voted for the Veloster’s affordable version over the new Mini Cooper S Hardtop, which also sports one. If you want to make an affordable sporty car stand out, this is the way to do it.

10. 2014 Ram 1500

Ram made huge leaps forward when it redesigned the workhorse 1500 pickup truck a few years ago. It’s a better truck all around, but the company went above and beyond with the tailpipes. The nicely plated, round twin pipes are well done on their own but what Ram did to really set the 1500 apart was design a curved lower lip in the chrome bumper so the pipes nestle against it. Who knew a truck could be so … elegant? photos by Evan Sears and Stephen Pham; Porsche and Nissan manufacturer images

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